Say the name Dante Bichette to a Colorado sports fan and you’ll elicit a smile.
They no doubt remember his time with the Colorado Rockies in the mid-1990s as an original member of the Blake Street Bombers.
When you think about Bichette, you hear the deep voice of then-Coors Field public address announcer Alan Roach belting out his name followed by Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer.”
And, of course, the home runs.
Not to mention that smile.
When it comes to Rockies fan-favorites, Bichette is still near the top of the list. It also helps to have a son who is a stud with the Toronto Blue Jays. Bo Bichette is the current shortstop for the Blue Jays.
Ahead of the first-ever FanDuel FanFest on Sunday in Denver, Bichette did an interview with PlayColorado. Bichette previews the FanFest from 12 p.m. to 11 p.m. MT at Empower Field at Mile High, the Wiffle Ball home run derby with former Rockies Vinny Castilla, Brad Hawpe and Clint Barmes, the rise of sports betting in the U.S. and the induction of his Rockies teammate Larry Walker to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Tickets to the event are free for new and existing bettors at the FanDuel Colorado online sportsbook.
PlayCO: How fun will this event be on Sunday?
Bichette: I think it’s always fun for me when I get to Colorado and I see some of the people that used to come out to the ball game. I get to see Vinny Castilla, Brad Hawpe, and a few of those guys. So I’m looking forward to it. I’ve always had a great relationship with the Rockies fans.
PlayCO: In terms of your event, you’re doing the Wiffle Ball home run derby. Who’s the favorite, do you think?
Bichette: I think a lot of people are going to pick me to be the favorite, but they don’t realize I’m 57 years old. I’m the oldest guy there. So I don’t know. I’m going to guess Vinny will be ready.
PlayCO: What is the difference between a normal home run derby and Wiffle Ball? Is one more challenging than the other?
Bichette: I would say it depends on what spot in life you’re in. I think right now, I don’t even know if I could hit a baseball over a fence right now. But then again, with a Wiffle Ball, that thing moves all over the place. I don’t know if my eyes are good enough to even square that thing up. We’ll see, man. It’s going to be fun.
PlayCO: How much of an impact will weather play in it? Have you looked at the weather report just to get an idea, because you mentioned the ball, how it just whirls around? It’s like hitting a knuckleball.
Bichette: Well, hey now, we’re in the light air, right? This is Denver, right? So hopefully it won’t move too much and it’ll go.
PlayCO: What are your thoughts on the boom of sports betting in the country, now that it’s legalized and growing into other states?
Bichette: I think it’s probably good for the game, or all sports really. It’s just another avenue to be a fan, and get involved. And really, I think it’ll help people understand the game a little better, and what makes a winner? What doesn’t? I think it’s really neat.
PlayCO: What would it have been like to play with legal sports betting when you did it? Would it have changed anything for you?
Bichette: Ooh, man, I’m not sure. I don’t think so. I think I would have just played the game the exact same way. I don’t know why it would have.
PlayCO: I see a lot of people mentioning, and it’s mentioned on broadcasts, like Bob Costas will mention it, what do you make of guys like Shoeless Joe who get banned for life for gambling and now you see the scroller on the bottom of the screen show odds during games? Do you think that they should lift the ban on Shoeless Joe to get into the Hall of Fame? What are your thoughts on that? It’s kind of heavy …
Bichette: Boy, I tell you what … There’s so much controversy around Shoeless Joe. If he really took money to drop a game, that’s tough, man. That’s a tough one. I’m not sure if we should lift the ban on that. But I don’t really know exactly. There’s controversy around that, so I don’t think I’m the guy to ask, really.
PlayCO: When you think back on your time with the Rockies, what do you remember?
Bichette: I remember great fans, great teammates, the Blake Street Bombers, the light air, the game-winning home run on Opening Day of Coors Field, the home run off Greg Maddux in the playoffs. All good stuff. All good stuff for me.
PlayCO: Can you believe it’s been as long as it’s been?
Bichette: No. No. I don’t even like to think about it. It’s been a long time.
PlayCO: How happy were you for your ex teammate when he got the call to get into the Hall of Fame?
Bichette: I was excited for him. I think I did more campaigning for him than anybody, because I had to do so many interviews for him. I worked hard for him, so I feel like I’m a little part of that going in. And having hit in front of him or behind him for a lot of those years. So I had a little bit to do with that, but hey, he was one of the greatest, if not the greatest players I ever played with. So I’m excited for him.
PlayCO: Do you think that gives any hope for Todd Helton and some of these other Rockies to start getting recognition for what they did to the game of baseball and how good they were?
Bichette: Absolutely. I think baseball will figure it out. Larry was obviously a favorite in my book, so I think the obvious players, baseball will figure it out. I think they’ll get it right. Well, I would think they’d get it right most of the time.
PlayCO: What are your views on the current state of the Rockies? Obviously, there is still that weird dynamic of being really good at home and not very good on the road. What is your current take on where the Rockies stand?
Bichette: Yeah, it’s an interesting team really right now, because it’s really based off their starting pitching. And they don’t have quite the sluggers that they’ve had in years past. I’ve always said if the Rockies are going to win, they have to win big at home, just because of how tough it is to go on the road and perform offensively. I think it’s a transition, with losing Nolan Arenado and possibly Trevor Story, but there’s a good sign there that they’re actually winning ball games at home and they got some pretty good pitching.
PlayCO: Being a former Major Leaguer, what gives you more joy, looking back on your career or watching your son?
Bichette: Boy, I would have to say I’m way more nervous watching my kid because I can’t do anything about it. But it’s way more rewarding seeing him just become the man he’s becoming, and learning how to play this game, and working so hard at it to become a big leaguer. I think anytime your kids do something that’s really special, it’s very rewarding.
PlayCO: Does he ever ask you for advice? Now that he’s been in the league a few years, has he ever reached out to you at any point?
Bichette: Yeah, quite a bit, actually. I do coach for the Bluejays, assignment kind of stuff … so quite a bit, we get in the cage and we talk hitting. And he still relies on me a little bit, which I don’t know if he does it just to make me feel involved, or if he needs me or not, but he does.
PlayCO: Back to the event, what are you most looking forward to aside from your Wiffle Ball home run derby and catching up with your former teammate, Vinny Castilla?
Bichette: My wife’s with me. The Chainsmokers are going to be a really cool thing at the end of the event. The fans, I imagine a lot of these fans will have been young, very young when they saw me play, and they will remember, so we’ll have some things to talk about. So that’s probably the best part of it.